Why Is The Salad Brown? Confessions of a Former Neat Freak

When I rolled over in bed this morning and saw the bag of salad sitting on my night table next to me, I knew then that I had finally crossed the line. I’m not sure exactly where the line was, or even what it looked like, because it was no doubt covered with wet towels, stray socks, and perhaps, even, my oven mitt. But a line had, indeed, been crossed.

The change from neat-freak to the person I am today was slow and gradual. It snuck up on me, insidious, silent, like a bad smell that you somehow don’t notice anymore because you’ve grown used to smelling it.

In my former life, my best friend Diane called me Mrs. Applebee. I’m not sure where she came up with that name, but to her it represented prim, proper, neat, and organized. Diane made fun of me because I picked up my living room nightly before going to bed. She found it amazing that I vaccumed most every day, and made my bed every morning. She laughed because I washed, dried, and put away all the dishes immediately after every meal. She was stunned that I folded all the laundry the instant the dryer buzzed, before it even had time to cool off, and then put everything away. In the drawers.

I should have known I was getting close to the line when, a few weeks ago, I needed to bake a cake. Without giving it a second thought, I went straight to the kids’ bathroom toy tub and retrieved one of the beaters to my electric mixer. Another clue should have been when the pizza cutter went missing for several days. My teenage son was frantic (“I NEED that utensil, mom!), so I told him to check under the couch cushions. When my teenage daughter needed to use the cutting board, I nonchalantly told her, “It’s in my bathtub, next to the box of sanitary pads that Luke (our 2 year old) dumped in there the other day.”

Last week my husband was complaining that I hadn’t decorated the house yet for Halloween. “Just look around,” I told him. “There are plenty of cobwebs, why do we need to spend money? Besides, most of the decorations require a clear, flat surface on which to be set. We don’t own a clear flat surface.”

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I was a pro. Of course, our two children were at school all day, and baby number three was on the way, so it was easy enough to keep up. Each day of the week was spent cleaning and organizing the house. The play room had bins where each toy was categorized and lovingly placed. The kitchen floor was always swept and mopped. The kitchen cabinets were organized. Most afternoons, fresh baked cookies were being taken from the oven, just as the bus pulled up to drop the kids off after school. Dinners were balanced…meat, fresh vegetables, fruit, milk. And after dinner, the dishes were all washed, dried, and put away.

But then we had more children. And then more children. And now we have six. And then I had a great idea to start my own business from home. Soon, I noticed the walls of the house seemed to be closing in. Or maybe those aren’t the walls, but just the toys and shoes and books and Legos that find their homes around the perimeter of every room in my house.

So, why was the salad sitting on my night table this morning? Because my 2 year old loves salad, and last evening he brought it into my bedroom (where I was working) and asked if he could have some. I told him no, took the salad from him, placed it on my night table (fully intending to put it away when he was otherwise occupied), and didn’t give it another thought until bedtime. At that point, my husband told me he’d put it away when he got up after the news to take the dog out.

Apparently, either the dog didn’t get taken out, or he just forgot about the salad.

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